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Jason Sampler
New Orleans, Louisiana

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B.A. History Education, SWOSU
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Th.M. Theology, NOBTS

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Closed on Christmas???

An AP article today noted that many megachurches will be closed on Sunday, December 25. Of all of the days in the calendar year to be 'closed', it's shocking to me that many churches are canceling services on THE DAY chosen to commemorate the birth of it's founder, Jesus. Even more appalling are the reasons for closure. Here is a small quote from the article:

Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said. "If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said.

This bothers me on multiple levels. First, the last time I checked, no NT writer ever made mention of canceling a missionary trip because it wouldn't be 'the most effective use' of resources. What about gospel proclamation? How does that weigh into the equation? Have we become so consumer oriented that we are more concerned with efficiency than with obedience. I'm not trying to be legalization about this. I don't think canceling services on Christmas will bring judgment upon churches. Their reasoning, however, that it is not efficient to be open is less than biblical or persuasive.

The second problem I have with this statement is Parkinson's misunderstanding of the purposes of the church gathered and the church scattered (I don't fault only her on this; this is a categorical mistake most, if not all, seeker-sensitive churches as well as many other churches make). It is not the purpose, as I see in the NT, of the church gathered to 'reach the unchurched'. The audience of every NT document (barring the gospels, Acts, and Philemon) is either to a local church, to a pastor/elder of such a church, or contains letters to churches within the larger letter (i.e., Revelation). In all of these settings, the primary exhortation is directed towards believers. The letters, being written to the churches, show no hint of a mixed congregation of believers and non-believers. There seems to be absent any idea that the church is expected to be full of non-believers on a week to week basis. Evangelism is one of the expectations for the church scattered, not for the church gathered.

Does this mean unbelievers are unwelcome in a weekly worship service? By no means. However, to structure an entire philosophy of ministry around attracting the unchurched seems to make for an uneven balance, not to mention is totally absent from the NT. If churches exhort believers during times of gathering, the disciples will naturally make evangelism part of their daily interaction with the unchurched: witnessing at work, the gym, or the grocery store. To close churches on Christmas is to miss the point of the entire gathering of the church, for the celebration of the coming, obedient sinless life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.

Who cares if the lost won't come to church that day? I'm sure I'll receive some criticism for this, but the church shouldn't concern itself with how many lost people come every week. Can they come, Yes. Should we cater our schedule to them, No. The church is comprised of those who have surrendered to Christ. Times of worship are for our encouragement, prayer, fellowship, and communion with Christ. Worship is not for lost people. Churches need to understand the differences in mission/purpose between the church gathered and the church scattered.

posted by Jason Sampler at 6:47 PM

4 Comments:

Blogger cks said...

You've completely failed to address two other segments of the church that have a direct bearing on this situation: the church smothered and the church covered. Unlike the gathered/scattered motif, however, these two definitely go together. In the biz, we just say "Plate o' C --smothered/covered," and then sit back and sip some coffee.

5:06 PM, December 07, 2005  
Blogger cks said...

On a less serious note, though, I completely agree with you.

5:07 PM, December 07, 2005  
Blogger D.R. said...

You might want to go over to the Founder's site and post a comment. Tom Ascol has written a post on this.

I actually disagree with you on this one and support the mega-churches (in general, though not completely in their reasoning). I think it is perfectly acceptable and God-glorifying to cancel Christmas morning services. But the reasoning I think should be in order to encourage families to spend time together and to continue their traditions. Now, I think that a Christmas Eve service or a Sunday night service should most definately be done.

Also, we should think about our leaders, many of whom may be hundreds of miles from their families and have the desire to be with them as well. So I think there are some legitimate concerns and I don't think that coming down hard on these churches because of their decision to do this is necessarily the best thing to do. Additionally, I don't remember this much discussion and disagreement the last time that Christmas was on a Sunday.

But either way, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

7:35 PM, December 08, 2005  
Blogger cks said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:40 PM, December 08, 2005  

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The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Revised Edition) by Wayne Grudem


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The views presented on this blog do not represent the opinions or positions of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the SBC, any local, or state Baptist association, or of Edgewater Baptist Church. The views represented here are solely the personal views of the author. Also, it should be made public that I am a rabid University of Oklahoma sports fan . . . BOOMER SOONER!

 

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